CHECKING IN | UPDOWN FARMHOUSE
Updown Farmhouse is a new boutique hotel and restaurant set in (you guessed it) an old farmhouse in the countryside just outside Deal in Kent. Husband and wife owners Ruth Leigh (who’s dad is Rowley Leigh) and Oli Brown (also behind Duck Duck Goose in London) bought the 17th century farmhouse and surrounding land in lockdown and have been busy renovating it, finally opening in summer 2022.
The opening is very much being taken in stages. There are just four rooms in the main house and one standalone cottage, and, for now, the restaurant is an alfresco affair next to the old stables building – the space has been winter proofed with a roof and heaters for the colder weather, but you’ll still want to wrap up warm! Eventually the huge barn building, which you can see on one side of the walled gardens, will be home to the proper restaurant, and this should be open sometime next year. The restaurant and rooms are only open Thursday – Sunday currently, but again this should start to extend next year as the project nears completion.
With such a small number of rooms, the homely intimate feel of the place for those staying the night is very much retained. You enter directly into a warm downstairs living room with walls lined with books and big comfy sofas. Elsewhere on the ground floor, there’s more nooks with fireplaces and cosy corners to relax and read a book – or indeed fix yourself a cocktail from the honesty bar. The place has been given a thorough re-decoration with fresh paint and sleek new furniture but without losing that homely feel. Upstairs there’s the four rooms, each with their own en suite bathroom. Each room is uniquely decorated with bright colours, modern artworks, big comfy beds, and vintage wardrobes or dressers.
Outside, a lovely walled garden leads around to the outdoor restaurant, with thick woodland just behind. We were there for a Friday night dinner and despite the cold the place was packed (they were given a great review by Grace Dent earlier in the summer). The menu is seasonal, simple and homely, and we were there just as the autumn menu had landed. Produce is all sourced locally, including fish from our favourite fishmonger in Deal, Jenkins and Sons.
Make sure you start with cheesey puffs and a glass of Simpsons rose fizz which is made just up the road near Canterbury. To start there was a beautiful fish soup which we could smell being cooked in the afternoon when we checked in – a perfect autumn dish. There was also buffalo mozzarella with chunks of roasted pumpkin and olives to get us started, as well as delicious fresh bread and butter. For mains we had grilled mackerel with quince pine nuts, and bitter leaves, plus braised short ribs with polenta, girolles and parmesan, which was a very hearty dish – so hearty in fact that there was no way we could fit in dessert after!
Updown Farmhouse is a super charming place that’s almost like staying with mates for the weekend. We look forward to seeing how the place comes along, especially the big new barn restaurant due for next year.
Updown Farm, Updown Road, Betteshanger, Deal, CT14 0EF